Fiscal responsibility seems to be all the rage these days. Or, at least that’s what Tea Partiers claim to be motivated by, right? They tell us that it’s high time that we get serious, tighten our belts, and cut “big government” to the bone, before the inevitable happens, and the country goes careening over the precipice of Socialism.
I have a hard time taking this seriously, given that a great number of these individuals on the right presently receive government assistance in some form, but, for the sake of argument, let’s take them at their word that they’re willing to significantly cut the budget. And, as long as we’re ignoring stuff, let’s also ignore the fact that these same folks didn’t seem to have a problem when it was George Bush running up the deficits, which would indicate to me that their anger probably has more to do with the young black man currently residing in the White House than it does with deficit spending, but I’ve been wrong before. At any rate, let’s take them at their word that they want to make significant cuts. So, where do we start?
The Republicans tried to address it in their “Pledge to America.” Of course, their pledge, as it included permanent tax cuts for the top 2% of American earners, and articulated next to nothing in the way of cuts to offset the impact of extending those Bush tax cuts, didn’t really provide much of a roadmap for fiscal responsibility… While we’re on the subject, the following excerpt comes from an ABC News piece of Joe Biden.
…The vice president said “if I hear one more Republican tell me about balancing the budget, I am going to strangle them. To the press: that’s a figure of speech.”
The Republicans’ new “Pledge to America,” he said, will increase the debt by $1 trillion.
“These guys have absolutely no credibility, no credibility on debt,” he said. “Folks, look, we’ve seen this movie before. We’ve seen this movie. We know how it ends”…
My sense is that no one wants to cut the budget. But, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Tea Party is real in that regard. Maybe there is a movement afoot to really follow though. Certainly there are some signs from inside the beltway that people are taking the threat seriously, like today’s Wall Street Journal op-ed penned by AEI’s Arthur Brooks, the Heritage Foundation’s Ed Feulner, and the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, defending the incredible amounts of money we spend on the U.S. military each year. (The title of the piece is, Peace Doesn’t Keep Itself.) Here, with more on that, is a clip from The Economist:
…A quick glance at the federal budget is enough to see that military spending is far and away the largest expense after Medicare and Social Security. That fact combined with the observation that America’s titanic military budget is larger than the military budgets of China, Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Saudia Arabia, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, and Australia combined is more than enough to suggest to common sense that there’s room here to cut a bit of fat.
But not so fast! According to AEI’s Arthur Brooks, Heritage’s Ed Feulner, and the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, any attempt to shrink the big government of garrisons and guns will “make the world a more dangerous place, and … impoverish our future.” Whose side are you on, tea partiers?
Messrs Brooks, Feulner, and Kristol assert that military spending “is neither the true source of our fiscal woes, nor an appropriate target for indiscriminate budget-slashing in a still-dangerous world”. They aver that “anyone seeking to restore our fiscal health should look at entitlements first, not across-the-board cuts aimed at our men and women in uniform”.
This is bogus. Sure, Medicare and Social Security cost more, but spending on war and its infrastructure remains a titanic expense. The path from debt, whether for governments or families, is to cut back across the board. If you’re in the red and you spend a ridiculous amount of your income on your porcelain egret collection, the fact that you spend even more on rent and student loan payments is obviously no excuse not to cut back on egret miniatures. And, in fact, America’s martial profligacy is a “true source of our fiscal woes”. According to Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes:
There is no question that the Iraq war added substantially to the federal debt. This was the first time in American history that the government cut taxes as it went to war. The result: a war completely funded by borrowing. U.S. debt soared from $6.4 trillion in March 2003 to $10 trillion in 2008 (before the financial crisis); at least a quarter of that increase is directly attributable to the war. And that doesn’t include future health care and disability payments for veterans, which will add another half-trillion dollars to the debt. As a result of two costly wars funded by debt, our fiscal house was in dismal shape even before the financial crisis—and those fiscal woes compounded the downturn.
Perhaps because they see the wrong-headedness of their line of defence, Messrs Brooks, Feulner, and Kristol retreat to the claim that in order to make money, America has to spend money…
So, do you think, in this fearful nation in which we live, there’s really a significant push toward cutting military expenditures? And, if not, why the op-ed from Kristol and company? Was it just to scare Republicans into voting come November 2nd? Do they just want to plant the seed now that some shadowy entities out there want to slash the military, making us a ripe target for the likes of Cuba? And, where do you stand?